Tresor Mbuyu confirmed his status as Garinger Highs best soccer player Wednesday during the first round of the N.C. 4A playoffs.
Mbuyu, a junior forward, scored a hat trick in the Wildcats 5-2 win against South Caldwell at Garinger, including a momentum-changing tally in the 69th minute. The top-seeded Wildcats (22-0) had their lead whittled to 3-2 when Mbuyu finished a dazzling run with a right-footed rocket to give Garinger some breathing room.
Most of the time Ive been stepping up for my team, Mbuyu said. Im not trying to be cocky, but Im kind of one of the best players on the team and when I receive the ball, theyre all looking up to me.
Mbuyu was worth looking up to throughout the match. His goals at the 30th and 58th minutes pushed Garinger to a 3-0 lead, but South Caldwell (3-19-1) climbed into contention with consecutive tallies to cut the deficit to one with 17 minutes left.
The Wildcats responded with Mbuyus dazzling run through the Spartans defense and Juan Carlos Ramirezs tally to the far post in the 74th minute to close the door.
We came out focused in the second half, Mbuyu said. We came out and forwards protected the ball, the midfielders did their job, and the defenders, too.
South Caldwell opted to tighten its defense to neutralize Garingers speed, with some early success. Goalkeeper Tim Crump turned away two Garinger shots early with spectacular saves, but the Wildcats broke through in the 19th minute on Juan David Vanegas slow roller in the box off Hussein Arsenes pass behind a fallen defender.
We knew physically, they were going to be better than us speed-wise, strength and overall performance, South Caldwell coach Elliott Bridges said. Our game plan was simple. It was sit back, mark a little and not try to run with them, because we knew if we ran with them wed get torched.
But run Garinger did, especially after South Caldwell pulled close. The result was the same as the previous 21 games, although the Wildcats are playing at less than full strength.
Were struggling, Garinger coach David Garrett said. Weve got a lot of injuries that are hurting us. Its adversity. Its like this whole season has been one thing after the next. Were going to have to pull together and mentally focus to keep advancing.
Said Mbuyu: We werent on our A game. We were just playing around and everyone was holding the ball for a long time. We thought we were going to win the easy way, but it didnt work like that.
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